Arbitrator Reinstates California Firefighters

Two Rialto, California firefighters who were terminated in the aftermath of a high-profile EMS incident in 2021, have been reinstated by an arbitrator. Captain Josh Gilliam, Firefighter-Paramedic Matt Payne, and Engineer Mark Brady were accused of wrongfully refusing to enter the Rialto Post Acute Care Center on November 17, 2021 due to COVID related concerns.

At the time, patient Joseph Angulo was in cardiac arrest. According to a lawsuit filed by Angulo’s daughter, the Rialto firefighters refused to enter the facility despite having been asked to assist, and being aware that caregivers were administering CPR inside. A police officer entered the facility and assisted staff in moving the patient to the medics outside. That officer was wearing a body cam that captured much of what went on. Once the patient was brought outside, the medics attended to and transported him to the hospital where he later died.

Following a departmental investigation, Captain Gilliam and FF Payne were terminated, and Engineer Brady received a 10-shift suspension. All three appealed, and their cases were heard by arbitrator Kenneth A. Perea. A copy of the decision is not available, but according to The Sun, Perea concluded that despite that fact that misconduct occurred, the punishment imposed was too harsh. He ordered Captain Gilliam and FF Payne reinstated with back pay, subject to one-week suspensions without pay. Perea ordered Brady’s suspension to be expunged from his record and awarded him backpay for the 10 shifts he was suspended.

According to The Sun, the city has reached a settlement with Angulo’s daughter, although the amount has not been disclosed. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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